In December, both Wired and Gizmodo identified Australian cryptocurrency expert Craig Wright as the man likely to be the elusive founder of bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto. The investigations, based on the same set of leaked documents, concluded that Wright either is Nakamoto, or else mastermind of a very clever hoax designed to lead people to believe he Nakamoto.
But a new analysis of Wright’s writing by a company which has been tracking Nakamoto via his anonymous texts for years concludes that he is highly unlikely to be the bitcoin founder. Indeed, the search for Satoshi Nakamoto goes on.
In the wake of the investigations, International Business Times asked Juola Associates, a firm that uses a technique called stylometry to identify the authors of anonymous texts, to compare Wright’s writing with texts known to be written by Nakamoto, such as the original bitcoin whitepaper published in 2009. “Based on linguistic evidence, we do not believe that Craig Wright authored the bitcoin paper,” John Noecker, chief scientist at Juola Associates said.
Noecker came to the conclusion using a text analysis tool called Envelope, which condenses “millions of different linguistic features that we have studied over the past 40 combined years of linguistic research into just a few best practices.”
Text analysis is not a foolproof method of identifying someone but Joula, whose techniques were developed by professor Patrick Juola at Duquesne University, have proven effective in the past. It was Joula who first identified Harry Potter author JK Rowling as the writer behind “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” a book which she published under a pseudonym. To help identify Nakamoto, the company has over the years tweaked its algorithm specifically to help identify the bitcoin creator.
While many believe that Wright was a hoaxer and most of the evidence against him was planted by Wright himself to trick the journalists at Wired and Gizmodo, there is still no conclusive proof that Wright is not Nakamoto. While a message on a bitcoin forum from an email address known to be associated with the bitcoin creator reading “I am not Craig Wright. We are all Satoshi.” was posted in the wake of the reports being published, it was not accompanied by a PGP key which would have proven its provinence.
Since the publication of the bitcoin whitepaper, and particularly in recent years when the value of the cryptocurrency has soared, there has been numerous people identified as being the creator of bitcoin, including an Irish cryptography student and bitcoin’s chief scientist, Gavin Andressen — but just three of these were ever seen as realistic candidates.
First was Nick Szabo, a reclusive economics professor who wrote about decentralized currencies and “bit gold” prior to the launch of bitcoin. A 2013 stylometric analysis of his writing linked him to the white paper published by Nakamoto describing bitcoin. Szabo has denied being Satoshi.
In the most high-profile “unmasking,” Newsweek (owned by International Business Times’ parent company IBT Media) in March 2014 returned to the stands with a bombshell cover story claiming that the creator of bitcoin was a retired Japanese physicist called Dorian Nakamoto. Nakamoto, whose birth name was Satoshi, claimed he had nothing to do with bitcoin and said his comments were misrepresented by the piece.
Finally, in the wake of Dorian Nakamoto’s “unmasking,” journalist Andy Greenberg uncovered Hal Finney, a pre-bitcoin cryptographic pioneer and the first person (other than Satoshi himself) to use the software, who was living just a few blocks from Nakamoto. Finley died in August 2014, but had always denied being the creator of bitcoin.
Speaking this week, Juola Associates’ Noecker said he still says Hal Finney is the most likely candidate from a linguistic point of view, but there are indications of multiple contributors. “Our working theory is that Satoshi Nakamoto is not a person but a team who collaborated to create the original paper, which is why linguistic analysis has proven to be so difficult,” Noecker said.
Wright has gone into hiding since the publication of the two articles and Wired has since published a follow-up revealing details that it may have been an elaborate hoax on the part of Wright. While the news cycle has moved on, the tax authorities, who raided Wright’s house at the same time as the reports were published in December, are continuing their search for the businessman who is wanted for questioning over his tax affairs.
According to a report in The Australian this week, authorities there believe Wright “is not the creator of Bitcoin and that he may have created the hoax to distract from his tax issues.” Wright is currently believed to be in the U.K. where he was due to start a masters of finance course at the University of London.